Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Reuse Stuff: Holiday Cards

I bet you have a big, beautiful pile of holiday cards from friends and family right about now, just like we do. While most of them may be photo cards, there will probably be a handful that are the good, old fashioned illustrated kind. Before you toss them, set them aside for a low-effort craft that recycles the cards for the next holiday into gift tags. You may be more inclined to just shell out $1.49 for sheets of peel and stick gift tags, and believe me, I have those too. But this little project is something my mom did with me starting when I was around 7 or 8, and now my kids love to do it. Once you get them started, they may want to do it all on their own. If nothing else, you'll feel a little greener for doing it!

The supplies

  • Illustrated holiday cards (not photo cards)
  • Pinking shears to make a decorative edge when you cut. These are optional - a straight edge with standard scissors is fine too.
  • A hole puncher
  • A "To/From" stamp and ink pad. This is optional - you can write in "To" and "From" yourself.
  • Thin ribbon

How to make gift tags recycled from holiday cards:

  1. With pinking shears or regular scissors, cut out a good image area from a card, making sure that the back side is blank.
  2. Punch a hole near the top edge of the tag.
  3. Use your stamp and ink to add "to" and "from" on the back of the tag or just write it yourself.
  4. Tie a length of thin ribbon through the punched hole.
  5. Now you have cute, semi-homemade gift tags!

Monday, December 17, 2012

One-Dish Dinners: Weekly Menu 12/17

One Dish Family Friendly Dinners

Some evenings, one dish is about all I can handle. Oh, you too? If I can get a protein plus veggies and maybe a pasta or potato into a single dish, I feel like I've gotten away with something.

I have to share some details about how we eat our dinners because yours may go down like this too. Tonight, I tried the Baked Chicken Fajitas for the first time, which I served with baked beans on the side. That's a weird side for fajitas, I know, but I had mistaken the can in my pantry for refried beans earlier in the day. All in all, the dish was a success, but here's how success looked: my husband and I ate the fajitas, assembled the conventional way with lots of hot sauce. My cave woman 9-year old mowed the chicken and onions... then more chicken. My 6 year old ate no chicken, as far as I could tell and stuffed her tortilla with baked beans and shredded cheese, but nothing else, and called it good. My 4 year old ate an empty tortilla, maybe a few beans, a fistful of shredded cheese and a pear that he begged for from our fruit bowl.  I share this because no matter how well composed these home-cooked dinners may look and sound to you in the pictures and descriptions, we always have some level of improv and deconstruction at the table. I say keep calm and keep cooking.

Ziti with Tomatoes, Spinach & Gouda

Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Spinach and Gouda in a bowl

This veggie-packed dish usually passes the kid taste test because it involves pasta and good cheese. You can also set aside some plain cooked pasta and a few of the ingredients to assemble a separate portion for picky eaters.

Side:  Garlic bread

  • Buy pre-shredded Gouda (my local store offers shredded Gouda now)
Make Ahead Notes 
  • Chop vegetables and set aside for later
  • Shred cheese
  • 8 ounces uncooked ziti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 cup chopped onion
    1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
    1 (10-ounce) can Italian seasoned diced tomatoes (such as Rotel Bold Italian)
    4 cups baby spinach
    1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded, smoked Gouda cheese, divided
    Cooking spray

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.
  • Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach to pan; cook 30 seconds or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. 
  • Add pasta and 3/4 cup cheese to tomato mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with remaining  cheese. 
  • Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.
Recipe from

Baked Chicken Fajitas

Baked Chicken Fajitas with onions, peppers and tomatoes
Chicken, peppers, onions, tomatoes and fajita seasonings... in one dish!! Though this preparation isn't exactly traditional, it is super convenient and really flavorful.

Sides: Warmed tortillas and toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, hot sauce

  • Although I haven't tried this, I imagine you could buy a packet of pre-mixed fajita seasoning instead of combining the seasoning blend yourself
 Make Ahead Notes 
  • Coat baking pan with cooking spray; chop the veggies and put them right into the pan for later
  • Chop chicken
  • Mix seasonings
  • You could combine all ingredients ahead and allow the chicken and veggies to marinate in the fridge; bake later

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips (or use boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, mostly drained
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 flour tortillas, warmed to serve

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  • Grease a 13×9 baking dish. Mix together chicken, tomatoes, chilies, peppers, and onions in the dish. 
  • In a small bowl combine the oil and spices. Drizzle the spice mixture over the chicken and toss to coat. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve with warmed tortillas and enjoy!

Recipe from SixSistersStuff Blog

Rosemary Chicken with Pesto Potatoes

Roasted Rosemary Chicken with Pesto Potatoes
I went to the store to buy ingredients for one dinner recipe and got totally distracted by a different recipe I spied on a package of Simply Potatoes that I happened to pick up. I was powerless against the suggestion of pesto. Sounded good, and here it is!

Sides: Give yourself a break and buy a salad kit with dressing included. And make one of your kids assemble it if possible.

Make Ahead Notes
  •  Mix up dry seasonings and set aside for later
  • 1 package Simply Potatoes® Diced Potatoes with Onion (I found them in the refrigerated section where eggs are kept)
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated pesto with basil (I used Buitoni)
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 package (approx. 3.5 lbs) fryer chicken pieces, skinned if desired
  • Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Stir together Simply Potatoes and pesto until potatoes are well coated. Spread into thin layer in bottom of baking dish. 
  • In small bowl stir rosemary, salt and pepper until well blended. Rub spice mixture over chicken. Arrange chicken, skin side up, on top of potatoes. (NOTE: The chicken cooked just fine, but if you like your skin a bit more crispy, you may want to quickly brown the chicken skin-side down in a pan before placing it in the pan with the potatoes to bake.)
  • Bake, uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes or until juices in chicken run clear. 

Recipe from Simply Potatoes

Chicken and Gruyere Turnovers

Chicken and Gruyere Turnovers made with puff pastry
Seriously, I am a little obsessed with puff pastry right now. I wish you could see the cheesy good stuff inside. I think the fillings could be just about anything you want or have left over - ham and cheese would be really tasty. And these are a perfect accompaniment to soup for an easy weeknight dinner. We ate them with the slow cooker Butternut Squash Soup from a previous Weekly Menu.

Make Ahead Notes 
  • Shred chicken and cheese; if you're pressed for time, just slice the cheese into thin strips
  • Allow the pastry to thaw for about 20 minutes at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 sheets (one 17.25-ounce package) frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard 
  • NOTE:  I recommend sprinkling the filling with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Heat oven to 400° F. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, Gruyère, and peas.
  • Open up the puff pastry sheets onto a baking sheet so you have two large rectangles. Cut each sheet of puff pastry in half to form 4 rectangles. Dividing evenly, top half of each rectangle with the chicken mixture. Fold over and seal the turnovers; brush the tops with the egg. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the mustard. 
Recipe from Real Simple

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cooking from the Pantry: Weekly Menu 12/10

Salmon, Pasta, Meatballls, Potatoes. Family friendly, easy dinners

With all the extra food shopping I do during the holidays, especially for ingredients that I don't usually have on hand, like almond extract or stuffing, I find myself evaluating the pantry staples that I stare at (but don't use up) day in and day out.

Hence this week's pantry raid, where I aimed to use up things like boxes of pasta, bags of rice and cans of diced tomatoes. My pantry is a bit clearer and we had some damn good results, thanks to fantastic recipes from a few of my favorite food bloggers and cooking sites.

In case you also need a pantry purge, here are some other recipes from past Weekly Menus that use up pantry ingredients:

Easy Asian Beef and Noodles: use up packs of Ramen noodles
Roast Sticky Chicken: use up lots of spices 
Vegetarian Burritos: use up canned beans
Italian Sausage Soup: use up cans of broth and diced tomatoes

What do you want to use up in your pantry?

Asian Salmon Bowl with Lime Sauce

 Asian Salmon over rice with broccoli and a lime soy sauce 
 Protein + veggies + rice = a one-bowl meal. Convenient, no?

Sides: With one-bowl meals, sides aren't really necessary, though Mandarin oranges or peeled Clementines would be a good addition.

  • Use pre-cooked, bagged rice such as Trader Joe's or Uncle Ben's Ready Rice
Make Ahead Notes
  • Cook rice ahead if not buying pre-cooked rice
  • Prepare syrup glaze and set aside for later
  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 salmon fillets (4 ounces each), skin removed
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 packages (5 ounces each) baby spinach (or substitute broccoli, but be sure to cook it until just tender)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • Heat oven to 400°F. Cook rice as directed on package. 
  • In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté garlic and pepper flakes until garlic is lightly golden, 1 minute. Add syrup, juice and soy sauce; cook until bubbling, 3 minutes. 
  • In a bowl, combine cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water; stir into garlic glaze. Cook until slightly thick, 1 minute. Arrange fillets on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread 1 teaspoon glaze over each fillet. Roast until just cooked through, 12 minutes. 
  • In a medium skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Add 1 package spinach; sauté until just wilted. Remove from pan; set aside. Repeat with second package spinach. Divide rice among 4 bowls; top each with 1/4 spinach and 1 salmon fillet, broken into large pieces. Drizzle with remaining sauce; sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds.
Recipe from Epicurious


 Cider Braised Meatballs

I have been meaning to make this ever since I started reading the amazing blog, Dinner A Love Story. This dish takes just a bit longer to prepare, so save it for a Sunday dinner or a more leisurely weeknight. (What's that??)

Sides: Steamed green beans and buttered egg noodles

Make Ahead Notes
  • Mix up and form meatballs; set aside on a baking pan in the fridge until ready to cook
  • Chop shallot
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs 
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream

  • Using your hands, mix together the first seven ingredients and form into golf-ball size meatballs.
  • Set a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Brown meatballs on all sides (in batches if necessary) and remove to a plate. They do not have to be cooked all the way through.
  • Add the shallot to the pot and cook 1 minute. Add the white wine, apple cider, cider vinegar, a little salt, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, add meatballs back to the pot. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove balls from pot, whisk 1 tablespoon heavy cream into the braising liquid. Serve meatballs with sauce spooned on top.
Recipe from Dinner A Love Story

Pasta with Tomatoes, Ricotta & Bacon

Pasta with a sauce of tomatoes, ricotta and bacon, served with broccolini
Although I don't think this was the prettiest looking dish, it tasted great - rich, smoky and cheesy. 

  • Buy pre-chopped onion from the produce section
Make Ahead Notes
  • Chop bacon and put in fridge for later
  • Chop onion and bell pepper
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green, red, or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta, any shape you like
  • Set a pot of water on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil for cooking the pasta.
  • Meanwhile, heat a sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until just beginning to turn golden and most of the fat is rendered. Add the onion and peppers, and cook until the onions are translucent, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, thirty seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and red pepper flakes (if using).
  • Let the tomato sauce to simmer while you cook the pasta. Drain the pasta and set aside. Add the ricotta cheese to the tomato sauce. Stir and taste for seasonings.
  • Scoop the pasta into individual bowls and spoon the sauce on top. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy immediately.
 Recipe from The Kitchn blog

Extra Credit: Crash Hot Potatoes

Smashed, roasted red potatoes with salt and pepper
Extra credit this week is a challenge to mix up your usual potatoes. They are from the Pioneer Woman blog, they are simple and they never fail to be a HIT.

Make Ahead Notes
  • Boil potatoes ahead and allow to cool slightly; do not refrigerate before baking
  • 12 whole New Potatoes (or other small round potatoes)
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • Rosemary (or other herbs of choice) to taste 
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make and cook them until they are fork-tender.
  • On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. Place tender potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.
  • With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again. Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with more olive oil.
  • Sprinkle potatoes generously with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and fresh chopped rosemary (or chives or thyme or whatever herb you have available.)
  • Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

 Recipe from The Pioneer Woman blog

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dinners for Sitter Nights: Weekly Menu 12/3

Easy, quick dinners for kids on night when a sitter is coming

It's the most wonderful time of the year - the time when you get to put on a shiny new outfit and head out for an adult evening! Our sitter usually arrives before the kids have had their dinner, and like everyone else, I often default to low or no-cook options like rotisserie chicken, pizza delivery or spaghetti. But sometimes I have a little extra time to prep something homemade and low maintenance for the kids before we go out for the evening. It usually works out when I have a small amount of chicken or ground beef that will easily feed the kids, but isn't quite enough for the whole family.

The recipes below are for quantities to feed a family, so unless you want leftovers, you may want to halve them. Also, you'll notice in the pictures that the side dishes are pretty formulaic around here. Trader Joe's Garlic Naan bread and peas are frequent sides, as are things like buttered egg noodles, Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots and sugar snap peas. I've listed the sides that I might serve with these dinners, but I don't over think it. Sometimes sliced fruit and buttered toast are the sides.

And finally, I went into the wayback machine and made Beer Bread as the Extra Credit this week. I feel like that was something we had a lot when I was a teenager, and was happy to try it again. It tastes great alongside one of the many soups I've been featuring here lately, especially the Butternut Squash Soup and the Italian Sausage Soup.


Easy Baked Fish Fillets

Baked white fish with a citrus mayo and bread crumb topping

 The fish gets a nice, crunchy texture from the bread crumbs. Whenever you have an extra slice or two of white bread, throw them in the freezer and save them for fresh bread crumbs.

Sides: Buttered egg noodles or baked potatoes; green beans or steamed broccoli

Make Ahead Notes 
  • Pulse crust-less white bread in a small food chopper or processor to make crumbs
  • Combine mayo mixture and put in fridge for later
  • Assemble fish completely and put in fridge until ready to bake
  • 1 1/2 pounds grouper or other white fish fillets
  • Cooking spray 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs(use crust-less white bread, not wheat)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Place fish in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine lime juice, mayonnaise, onion powder, and pepper in a small bowl, and spread over fish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs; drizzle with butter. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Sprinkle with parsley.
  • Notes: Haddock or cod would make good substitutes for the grouper. Adjust the baking time depending on the thickness of the fish.
 Recipe from MyRecipes

All American Meatloaf

Mini meatloaves with a ketchup-brown sugar topping
I prefer to make mini meatloaves because you get convenient portions and they cook much faster.

Sides: Trader Joe's Garlic Naan bread or tater tots; green peas or baby carrots

  •  Buy pre-chopped onion
Make Ahead Notes
  • Chop onion; use a mini food chopper to make the job even faster
  • Follow all steps below and place in fridge until read to bake
  • 2 lbs ground chuck
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quick cooking oats
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees; line a baking pan with foil and set a baking rack (if you have one) on top of the foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  • Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Shape mixture into mini meatloaves - about 4"x 2.5" - and place on rack.
  • Combine last 3 ingredients and spoon on top of each meat loaf.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until done.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living

Deviled Chicken Thighs

Deviled Chicken Thighs with a crispy coating
This recipe can be tailored easily to your family's tastes - instead of Dijon and Worcestershire under the breading, try honey mustard.

Sides: Garlic bread or biscuits; green peas or sugar snap peas with ranch dressing to dip

  •  Use dried parsley instead of fresh
Make Ahead Notes 
  • Prepare chicken completely and set aside in the fridge until you're ready to bake
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin removed 
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  • In a large bowl, mix mustard and Worcestershire sauce until blended.
  • In a pie plate or shallow container, combine bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper.
  • Toss chicken thighs in mustard mixture and then coat with crumb mixture.
  • Drizzle melted butter over chicken (this helps them brown)
  • Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until juices run clear.
Recipe adapted from

Beer Bread

This bread is super easy, but don't skip sifting the flour unless you want to end up with a hard, chewy texture. Don't have a sifter? Put the flour in a fine mesh colander over a bowl and use a spoon to "brush" the flour back and forth until it sifts into the bowl. 
  • 3 cups flour (sifted - this is a must!)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (12 ounce) can beer
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (1/4 cup will do just fine) 
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Mix dry ingredients and beer.
  • Pour into a greased loaf pan.
  • Pour melted butter over mixture.
  • Bake 1 hour, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes.

Recipe from 

Monday, November 26, 2012

No Turkey in Sight: Weekly Menu 11/26

Bacon Macaroni Casserole, Italian Meatball Sliders, Korean Pork Tenderloin, Salmon with Hoisin Glaze

Hi friends. Since the last week included a trip out of town and the big turkey day, I haven't been up to my usual dinner routine... or any routine, for that matter. So for the Weekly Menu, I decided to round up some of my personal favorites from the past few months that include NO TURKEY because you may be completely over the leftovers.



Bacon Macaroni Casserole

Macaroni and cheese casserole with bacon

I can't imagine what you'd do to lighten this dish, so please, don't even try. Just love it an all its bacon-y, cheesy glory. I always double this recipe.

Sides: This can be a one-dish meal, but something cool like a green salad on the side would work well.

  •  Buy pre-chopped onion found in produce section
Make Ahead Notes
  • Cook pasta ahead of time, rinse well in cold water and set aside, covered, to use later
  • Chop onion
  • Cook bacon and onions
  • Assemble casserole ahead, refrigerate and bake when ready
  • 8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 lb. bacon
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (10.75 oz) can of condensed tomato soup
  • 1 cup milk
  •  Preheat oven to 375.
  • Cook macaroni according to package directions. (Note: It's actually better to slightly under cook pasta that will be baked. If the package calls for noodles to be boiled for 9 minutes, cook them for 6-7 minutes instead.)
  • Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to drain on paper towels. Reserve two tablespoons of bacon drippings in pan. Cook onion in reserved bacon drippings until tender. 
  • Combine macaroni, bacon, onion, cheese, tomato soup and milk.
  • Turn into a two quart casserole and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Cover lightly after 30 minutes if bacon is becoming too browned.
 I have no idea where this recipe came from originally!

Korean Style Pork Tenderloin 

Korean Pork Tenderloin - easy meals to marinate
 The cooking technique for this pork dish pretty much guarantees it will be juicy. A little pink in the center is okay, and be sure to give the pork a few minutes to rest before slicing.

Sides: Trader Joe's Vegetable Fried Rice and steamed green beans drizzled with sesame oil

  • Use pre-trimmed, washed green beans
  • Use jarred, minced ginger and garlic
Make Ahead Notes: 
  •  Assemble marinade in large Ziploc and add pork to marinate in the morning
  • Place green beans in a steamer bag to microwave later
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed 
  • Cooking spray 
  • Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add pork. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Heat a large ovenproof skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Remove pork from bag, reserving marinade. Add pork to pan; cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides.
  • Place pan in oven; bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 160° (medium) or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Bring reserved marinade to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Cut pork into 1/4-inch-thick slices; serve with sauce.
TO FREEZE: Assemble marinade in Ziploc and add pork. Freeze immediately. While thawing, the pork will have plenty of time to marinate. Just be sure to give the bag a few good squeezes to mix up the marinade again. To prepare, thaw completely and cook as directed above.

Salmon with Hoisin Glaze

 This photo does not really do the dish justice, but trust me on this one.

Sides: Steamed edamame beans and pan-fried pot stickers (I like Trader Joe's). Serve pot stickers with soy sauce seasoned with a few drops each of sesame oil and rice vinegar.

Make Ahead Tips:
  • Combine the sauce for the salmon; marinate the salmon
  • Combine the dipping sauce for the pot stickers
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless wild salmon fillets
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Combine first 3 ingredients in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Add fish to dish, turning to coat. Marinate at room temperature 8 minutes, turning occasionally
  • Remove fish from marinade; discard marinade. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle fish evenly with sesame seeds. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
  Recipe is originally from MyRecipes

Italian Meatball Sliders

  The sliders are easy, but take a bit longer to prepare, so save this one for a Sunday or a relaxed weeknight. I double the recipe, which means cooking the meatballs in batches. Cool any extra cooked meatballs completely and freeze for another night.

Side: Spinach and mozzarella salad - find the recipe on Cooking Light

Make Ahead Notes:
  • Chop up shallots for meatballs and bell pepper, onion and mozzarella for salad; cover and store in the fridge for later. Store mozzarella separately.
  • Rinse and dry basil leaves
  • Measure out dry seasonings in a small bowl
Ingredients for shopping list:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + more for salad
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 shallots, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces lean ground pork
  • 2 (4-ounce) links turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½  cups lower-sodium marinara sauce
  • 12 slider buns, toasted
  • 12 basil leaves 
  • 1 cup julienne cut red bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • About 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mozzarella
  • Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat; swirl to coat. Add garlic and shallots to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until shallots are softened, stirring frequently. Combine shallot mixture, ricotta, and next 8 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl. Shape mixture into 12 (1-inch) meatballs; flatten each meatball slightly.
  • 2. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add meatballs to pan; cook 6 minutes, turning once. Add marinara sauce; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until meatballs are done. Top bottom half of each bun with 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce, 1 meatball, 1 basil leaf, and top half of bun.

Directions for salad: Combine red bell pepper, red onion, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar in a large bowl; let stand 15 minutes. Add the baby spinach, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss. Top with the fresh mozzarella.

 Find the recipe on MyRecipes

Monday, November 19, 2012

Save Energy for Turkey Day: Weekly Menu 11/19

Save energy for Turkey Day: easy family menus for a holiday week

The thing that always throws me off about Thanksgiving is that despite all the shopping, prepping, cooking and baking you do for the big day, you still have to get meals on the table leading up to that day, especially if you have house guests. So I've been trying out soups and other dishes, mainly prepared in the slow cooker, that allow you to serve a nice dinner, while saving your cooking energy for Turkey Day itself. I especially like the soups - if you're at a loss for what to serve guests or family for lunch or dinner over the holiday, throw on one of these soups and set out the makings for sandwiches. Done!

Here are some other dishes from Weekly Menus that feed with speed:

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Italian Sausage Soup

Quick Italian Sausage Soup with fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top

Here's a dish that I made way too often many years ago, and recently rediscovered it. This soup is the ultimate cheat because you can have it on the table in 20 minutes, but it tastes like it cooked way longer. Don't skip the grated cheese on top - that's a must-have.

Sides: Garlic bread

Make Ahead Notes
  • Grate Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Rinse and chop basil - set aside, but do not refrigerate
  • 1 lb mild or sweet Italian sausage
  • 4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
  • 1 cup uncooked small shell pasta
  • 3-4 cups bagged baby spinach leaves
  • 4 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Heat a pot over medium heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage to pan, and cook about 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain any excess fat.
  • Add broth, tomatoes, and pasta to pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until pasta is done. Remove from heat; stir in spinach until wilted. Sprinkle each serving with cheese and basil.

 Recipe from

Crock Pot Mongolian Beef

Mongolian Beef cooked in crock pot and served over rice with choped scallions

The sweet-salty combo of the sauce in this made it a winner with kids.

Sides: Rice and sauteed snow peas

  • Use jarred, minced ginger, usually found near jarred garlic
  • Use jarred, minced garlic
  • Buy bagged shredded carrots
Make Ahead Notes
  • Cut steak and refrigerate for later
  • Chop green onions

  • 1.5 pounds beef flank steak, cut into stir fry sized strips
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 3 medium green onions, chopped
  • Coat flank steak pieces in cornstarch. Add remainder of ingredients to crock pot and stir well to combine. 
  • Place flank steak into the crock pot and cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-5 hours. Serve over rice or noodles, if desired.
Recipe from Once a Month Mom

 Crock Pot Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash soup cooked in a crock pot and topped with sour cream and chives
  This soup gives you an earthy fall flavor, but it's not at all heavy. A mixing wand or hand blender makes fast work of pureeing the soup right in the crock pot.

Sides: Spinach or kale salad plus beer bread or another rustic bread

  • Buy already-peeled and cubed squash, such as Trader Joe's option
  • Buy pre-peeled apple slices (the kind you might buy for a kid's snack)
Make Ahead Notes
  • Peel outside of squash with a potato peeler, cut in half lengthtwise, scoop out seeds and cube into 1" pieces
  • Cut off root end and dark green end on leeks, then cut in half lengthwise. Take off tough outermost layers and soak remaining cut pieces in a shallow dish of water to get the grit out. Rinse and pat dry, then chop into half-inch pieces and set aside for later.
  • Peel and chop apples. If setting aside for later, soak apples for a few minutes in a mixture of 1 cup water with 1tsp lemon juice to stop browning. Pat dry and refrigerate for later.
  • 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed 1" size (about 1 medium squash) 
  • 2 cups leeks, chopped (whites and light green only)
  • 2 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored, diced
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp marjoram, ground (I used poultry seasoning instead)
  • Salt to taste
  • White pepper to taste 
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt (optional)
  • Chives for garnish
  • In a 5-quart slow cooker, combine the squash, leeks, apples, broth and water.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours or until the squash and leeks are very tender. You can speed up the process by cooking 3-4 hours on HIGH. Add seasonings after 5-6 hours on LOW or 2-3 on HIGH.
  • Using a mixing wand, carefully puree the soup in the slow cooker until a you have a smooth, uniform texture. Turn on HIGH for another 1/2 hour.
  • Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt swirled into soup on top and garnish with chives.

Recipe from Group Recipes

Extra Credit: Crock Pot Chicken Broth

Chicken Broth cooked on a crockpot

If you eat rotisserie chicken or any roasted chicken on the bone, save the bones and you can make homemade chicken broth with practically no effort. You'll feel so good about being resourceful with kitchen scraps that otherwise would be discarded. By the way, use this same technique with the turkey when that bird is picked clean later this week.

  • One rotisserie chicken, picked clean of meat (okay to leave on skin, but be sure to remove any string that trussed the bird)
  • 2-3 celery ribs
  • 1/2 onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks (or a small handful of baby carrots)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning or a combo of thyme, sage and marjoram
  • Water
  • Optional:  fresh parsley (just rinse the springs and put in whole), chopped garlic
  • Put all ingredients in the crock pot and fill with water until the water is about one inch above the bird.
  • Cook on HIGH 6 hours.
  • Pour the mixture through a colander with a large bowl underneath to strain and collect the broth. Discard all bones and vegetables.
  • Cool completely and store broth in glass jars or in small Ziploc bags in 1 cup portions. If you store in Ziplocs, leave a little room in the bag for expansion. Lay them flat to freeze and they will take up way less room on your freezer shelves.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dinner On-the-Go: Weekly Menu 11/12

Dinners on the Go for nights with games, practices and other family activities

Back when I first launched this blog, I put out a call for content requests and my friend Alyce said that a pain point in her household was trying to figure out how to feed the family when dinnertime is interrupted by sports practices or games, dance rehearsals or other activities. Turns out this is a pain point for a lot of you out there.

This fall, we are SO in that boat. Three nights out of the week, there are volleyball and soccer practices right at dinnertime. The kids on the go need to eat... so do we... and so do my younger kids. For the past couple of months I've tried different dinners to see what could be prepared super-fast, travel well and reheat well if needed. This week, there's no extra credit - we are all about the dinners on the go.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad - a dinner for nights on the go to games, practices and more
The kids and my husband totally devoured this dish. It has a fresh taste that can be adjusted in lots of ways with different fresh herbs (chives would be nice) and salad dressings, such as buttermilk ranch instead of Caesar.

Sides: Baked sweet potatoes

  • Buy feta cheese that's already crumbled
 Make Ahead Notes
  • Slice Romaine lettuce, tomatoes and basil; chop tomatoes and parsley
  • 3 cups skinned, shredded roasted chicken breast (I use store-bought rotisserie chicken)
  • 3 cups hot cooked penne (about 6 ounces uncooked pasta)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/3 cup creamy Caesar dressing
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat.
ON THE GO:  Place in a Tupperware container with dressing on the side if the dinner will not be eaten immediately.

Recipe adapted from

Barbecue Chicken Sliders

Barbecue Chicken Sliders - dinners for nights on the go to games, practices and other family activities
If you have NO time, this is the dinner for you. To get the soft butter called-for, I highly recommend a butter bell, which keeps butter safely spreadable at room temp. It is now a must-have in our kitchen.

 Sides: Roasted corn (frozen) from Trader Joe's or oven fries

Make Ahead Notes
  • Bring butter to room temp
  • Chop parsley
  • Combine butter, parsley, garlic, S&P, cover and set aside at room temp if you'll use within a couple hours or in fridge if you'll use later

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups favorite bottled barbecue sauce
  • 3 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper
  • Slider rolls or other favorite rolls
  • Combine the butter, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  • Set the butter mixture aside.
  • Shred the chicken.
  • Put the chicken into a saucepan and add the barbecue sauce. Warm over medium heat until heated through.
  • Meanwhile, butter your rolls. Stick them in a hot oven or toaster oven to toast.
  • Put some chicken mixture on the toasty, garlic roll. 
  • ON THE GO: Follow all directions and wrap sandwich(es) in foil.
 Recipe from BakedBree

Fried Rice

Fried Rice: dinners for nights on the go to games, practices and other family activities
 Here's what I love about fried rice - it's comforting and warm, it's nutritious and filling, it can handle just about any veggie on hand and the main ingredient is a leftover item. 

Sides: This can be a main dish while on the go or a side dish if served at home. If it's a side, serve it with something like Asian Glazed Grilled Chicken or Korean Style Pork Tenderloin.

  • Use leftover carry-out or home-cooked rice (this is an essential time-saver). Make sure the rice has been refrigerated and is COLD. Freshly cooked, hot rice is too soft and will turn gluey if you try to fry it.
Make Ahead Notes
  • Chop up cooked veggies and/or defrost veggies

  • 2 1/2 tsp sesame oil or other cooking oil such as canola, divided
  • 2-3 eggs, whisked together
  • 2 cups cold cooked rice (must be cold to fry properly)
  • Any cooked leftover or thawed veggies you have on hand - shelled edamame, cooked, diced carrots, mushrooms, etc.
  • Soy sauce and hoisin sauce to taste
  • Chopped green onions (green part only)
  • Heat 1 tsp oil over medium heat; add whisked eggs. Pour in eggs and let them set on the bottom (we're making scrambled eggs here). With a heat-resistant spatula, push eggs from outside to center, repeating until eggs are cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add remaining oil and turn heat to medium-high. Add cold rice and stir-fry for about 4-6 minutes, or until rice becomes golden brown from the frying. Stir only occasionally; the rice needs time to sit in the pan and develop a bit of a "crust." 
  • Add veggies until heated through.
  • Stir in soy sauce and hoisin sauce to taste. About 1 teaspoon each is a good start.
  • Garnish with chopped green onions.
  • ON THE GO: Place fried rice in a thermos to keep it hot.

Orecchiette with Mozzarella & Tomatoes

Orecchiette with Mozzarella & Tomatoes: dinners for nights on the go to games, practices and other family activities
This salad is mild and contains ingredients that even picky eaters will usually accept. Spice up your portion with a sprinkle of crushed red peppers if you prefer a little heat.

Sides: Arugula salad tossed with vinaigrette or choice and crusty bread

Make Ahead Notes
  • Chop tomatoes and mozzarella, set aside for later
  • Chop mozzarella and set aside in fridge for later
  • 2 cups uncooked orecchiette (about 8 ounces uncooked
  • 3 cups chopped plum tomato 
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) diced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain and rinse under cold water. Drain. Combine pasta, tomato, and remaining ingredients. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
ON THE GO:  Place in a Tupperware container; consider adding basil right before eating.

Recipe from

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 More Drugstore Beauty Finds

Ever since my last Drugstore Beauty Finds list, I've kept an eye out for other budget-friendly beauty items that can be found at places like Target, CVS and Walgreens. I'm happy to report that there are several great items, which you might try for yourself or consider as small holiday gifts for daughters or other girls in your life who enjoy trying a lip gloss or nail polish.

Rimmel Stay Glossy Long Lasting Lip Gloss

Drugstore Beauty Finds: Rimmel Stay Glossy in All Night Long

Rimmel Stay Glossy is a super comfortable gloss that is not sticky or drying, and comes in a variety of shades that actually stay put for quite a while. My favorites are All Night Long, which is a plummy dark pink (pictured here), and Immortal Charm, a nude-blush color that looks great layered over lip liner. Each gloss is currently $4.99 at At that price, get one for the purse and one for the car!

Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel

Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel

Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel indeed smells like cucumbers, plus it's soothing, cool and is paraben-free and cruelty-free. I especially love how it feels when I dab it on my eyes after a long stretch in front of the computer. Also, a little goes a long way, so count on this product to last a while.

Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream

Garnier Skin Renewal B.B. Cream

So what the heck is a B.B. cream? It stands for "blemish balm," and in the case of Garnier Skin Renew B.B. Cream, it's a skin brightener + a tinted moisturizer. I love that it's a good moisturizer and it evens out my skin tone. There are plenty more expensive B.B. creams out there, but if you want to see what they're all about, this option at about $13 is worth trying.

Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Renewal Nourishing Styling Treatment

 Heathy Sexy Hair Soy Renewal Nourishing Styling Treatment

I grabbed an airplane-friendly size of Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Renewal Treatment in a Rite-Aid in September on a whim and fell in love with it. You can use it on damp or dry hair, so it's versatile. It smells great, smooths frizz, adds shine and makes your hair baby soft, but not weighed down or oily.

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Color

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Color

Last weekend, my good intentions to get a mani/pedi before a party were shut down by an over-scheduled Saturday, so I ducked into CVS and grabbed two bottles of Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color. The polish comes with a wide brush for easy application, and I have to say that several days later, the polish has held its own, showing no more wear and tear than you'd have with a salon mani/pedi.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meatless Wonder: Weekly Menu 11/5

Weekly Menu Meatless Dinners

In our family, I think a few of us could survive on meat and chocolate, with cereal thrown in for the occasional textural change. But just as we try to add more fish in our diet, we also try to prepare a meat-free meal at least once a week. With these recipes, you'll still get plenty of protein from cheeses or beans, as well as from fortified pasta if that's what you like. Plus, the leftovers from these dishes are great - the pasta dishes tend to taste even better the next day. Another tasty meatless option from an earlier Weekly Menu is the Gnocchi with Corn and Arugula in Cream Sauce.

 On a closing note, has pumpkin worn out its welcome yet? I cannot get enough, as evidenced by the Pumpkin Bread and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, and now this - Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins. This week's Extra Credit recipe is a 5-ingredient, semi-homemade deal that results in a yummy, cream cheese-filled spicy pumpkin muffin. I found this recipe a few years ago and love it for its convenience, especially as we head into a b-u-s-y holiday season. 


Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes

Spaghetti with a sauce of artichokes, cream, tomatoes and topped with fresh basil
 This is a pantry-staple go-to dinner that I often serve to my family, and once served it to a bunch of friends the night before a half marathon so could carb up on something interesting.

Sides: This is a one-dish meal, so no sides are necessary, though I like to add garlic bread.

  • Use high quality, pre-grated Parmesan cheese
  • Buy pre-chopped fresh onion
Make Ahead Notes
  • Chop herbs - have a kid cut them with clean scissors if you can
  • Grate cheese
  • Dice onion
  • Drain and chop artichoke hearts
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
  • 1 can Artichoke Hearts (14.5 Oz. Quartered Or Whole) Drained
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes With Juice (14.5 Oz.)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 cup Chicken Broth (use more as needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound Thin Spaghetti
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese, Freshly Grated
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Chives (or Other Herbs) Chopped
  • Cook spaghetti till al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • Melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream, chicken broth and nutmeg. Add salt and pepper to taste (do not undersalt!) Cook over low heat until heated through, then turn off heat.
  • Place drained pasta in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup Parmesan. Pour sauce over the top. Add chives. Toss lightly to combine and coat; add a tiny bit of reserved pasta water if sauce seems too thick.

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Vegetarian Burritos

Burritos filled with beans, rice, cheese and tomatoes
 No joke - you can have this prepped in maybe 15 minutes in the morning before going to work or getting kids off to school, put it in the fridge and then pop it in the oven when you get home.

Sides: Tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole

  • Buy pre-shredded cheese
  • Get layered Mexican dip at your grocery store and serve with the burritos instead of separate toppings
  • Use pre-cooked, bagged rice, such as Uncle Ben’s or Trader Joe's
Make Ahead Notes:
  • Cook rice earlier in the day, if not buying pre-cooked rice
  • You can make the whole thing early in the day, cover it and throw it in the fridge to bake later. If you do that, wait to put the salsa and cheese on until right before baking. Sometimes I’ll prep this while the kids eat breakfast because the effort level is that low. If you have the pre-cooked rice, you can make these up in about 15-20 minutes, tops.
  • 10 flour tortillas
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can of Mexican style diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 envelope of taco seasoning
  • 8 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top of burritos
  • 2 cups of cooked rice, white or brown (if using pre-cooked, bagged rice, follow package directions to warm)
  • 1 cup of salsa (I prefer the fresh kind found in tubs in refrigerated section at grocery store)
  • Chopped green onions (optional)
  • Toppings to go on burritos: sour cream, chopped green onions, guacamole, salsa, hot sauce
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Lightly coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, stir together all beans, tomatoes with juice and taco seasoning. The refried beans will be chunky, so gently break them up as you mix. When mixture is heated through and well-combined, about 3-5 minutes, remove from heat.
  • Set up an assembly line with the tortillas, the rice in a bowl, the cheese in a bowl, the tomato-bean mixture in the pan and the baking dish on the end.
  • One by one, fill tortillas with about 3 tbsp. each of rice, tomato mixture and cheese. Try to save some cheese to sprinkle on top of burritos when baking. Roll up each tortilla gently and place seam-side down in pan. The amounts of rice, tomatoes/beans and cheese that go into each burrito don’t matter much – you really can’t go wrong. You may find that you fill only 6 burritos because you like them fuller, or 8-10 if you go a little lighter on the filling. Pour salsa over burritos and sprinkle extra cheese on top.
  • Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, or until heated through. Remove foil and cook 5 more minutes or so until the cheese on top is slightly browned and melty.

Baked Stuffed Pasta Shells

Pasta Shells Stuffed with Ricotta and Mozzarella and Baked
This takes a little more assembly time than the usual weekday meal, but if you double the recipe, you can freeze extra portions for a future meal, so the extra effort will be worth it.

Make Ahead Notes 
  • Chop herbs - have a kid cut them with clean scissors if you can
  • Combine cheese filling and refrigerate for later
  • Cook pasta shells - be sure to rinse well with cold water and drain 
  • If possible, assemble the shells completely and just bake when you are ready to eat
  • 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (Reserve 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 lbs ricotta cheese
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 8 ounces spaghetti sauce (jarred or homemade)
  • fresh basil, chopped, for garnish 
  • In an 8 quart pot, bring water to a boil and cook shells for 8 minutes or until al dente.
  • Drain and cool immediately with cold water.
  • Drain and place open side down on paper towels.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the rest of ingredients except the spaghetti sauce.
  • Reserve the 1/4 cup of Mozzarella.
  • Place a thin layer of spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a 12 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Spoon the cheese mixture into each pasta shell and place open side up, in a single layer, in prepared pan.
  • Pour the rest of sauce over the stuffed shells.
  • Loosely cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  • During last 5 minutes of baking, remove foil and sprinkle remaining Mozzarella cheese on top.
  • Bake 5 more minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped basil.
  • TO FREEZE: Assemble stuffed shells, but do not use tomato sauce and do not bake them. Place stuffed shells on a baking sheet to freeze individually. When frozen, store together in a Ziploc bag. 
Recipe from

Extra Credit: Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater! This is a semi-homemade tasty cheat using a boxed cake mix to make pumpkin spice muffins with a cream cheese center. These just may save you during the holidays when you feel obligated to show up with a baked good.

Make Ahead Notes
  • Take cream cheese out to soften at room temperature
  • 8-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 package spice cake mix
  • 15-ounces canned pumpkin
Sprinkle Turbinado sugar on top before baking or powdered sugar after baking (I recommend doing this optional step - it really improves the look of the muffins)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin, including top, with cooking spray.
  • Beat filling ingredients together until combined.
  • Beat muffin ingredients together until combined. (To be clear, you are only using the mix and the pumpkin. Nothing else — ignore the box instructions.) Batter will be thick.
  • Drop about 1 tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup, spreading it to cover the bottom.
  • Drop in a level tablespoon of filling.
  • Cover with enough batter to fill the muffin cups full. Yes full.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
  • If you like a warm, gooey center, serve the muffins warm. Otherwise, let them cool longer and the filling will firm up for you.
Makes 12 muffins

Recipe found on BabyCenter